President Joe Biden College gives remarks on campus protests

US President Joe Biden delivers remarks regarding college campus protests in the Roosevelt Room of the White House on Thursday May 2, 2024.

(Photo by Demetrius Freeman/The Washington Post via Getty Images)

As Biden Bets Reelection on Benjamin Netanyahu, We May All Pay the Price

If the president loses the 2024 election to Trump because he chose to cater to the whims of Israel's brutal, right-wing, authoritarian leader—he will be remembered for nothing else.

Even before the wholesale destruction of Gaza, the message from the major media was that Democrats as a group are suffering from a potentially fatal case of Bidenitis. Most Democrats, the narrative goes, will end up voting for Joe Biden’s reelection to keep Trump out of the White House, but they won’t like it. These unhappy Democrats feel trapped, forced to vote for a candidate for whom they have no enthusiasm. And there are many such Democrats. It’s easy, however, to overlook the fact there are also many Democrats for whom Joe Biden is much more than the lesser of two evils. People like me who, if not exactly enthusiastic supporters, have nevertheless been staunch supporters.

We believe he’s earned our support. We don’t care that he’s old, that he sometimes picks the wrong word when speaking, or that he’s not a particularly dynamic speaker. What we have cared about is his success in pushing forward long-promised (mostly) progressive policy goals. Things like investing billions of dollars in the fight against global warming, finally doing something about our deteriorating infrastructure, and allowing Medicare to negotiate drug prices. Progressives have been talking about these things for decades. But it was Joe Biden who, despite having only a tiny Democratic majority in Congress, made them more than talking points.

None of these advances were perfect from a progressive viewpoint, but advances they unquestionably were. Joe Biden’s legislative record easily outshines any other president since Lyndon Johnson.

While the overwhelming majority of progressives who are angered over Gaza will ultimately vote for Biden in order to prevent the horror of a second Trump term, inevitably some won’t.

Then on October 7, 2023, the world shook. Hamas launched its brutal incursion into Israel quickly followed by Israeli’s brutal attacks on Gaza. Suddenly, many staunch Biden supporters found themselves painfully confronted with a very different Joe Biden from the one they thought they knew — a president whose loyalty to Israel, or more likely his loyalty to a mirage of an Israel that may once have existed but is now long gone, led him to not only overlook what can only be described as crimes against humanity by Israel, but to also make the United States a participant in those crimes. And, yes, Hamas has committed crimes against humanity of its own, horrible ones, but that one war crime doesn’t justify another is a truism that shouldn’t need to be spoken. Also, we are sending arms to Israel, not to Hamas.

That the United States shares responsibility for the atrocities committed by Israel in Gaza is beyond debate. As far as we know, no American soldier has personally pulled the trigger of a gun in Gaza, dropped a bomb there, or stopped delivery of food to its starving civilian population. But America has watched as Israel, in what was supposed to be a war against Hamas alone, not all of Gaza, has done all of these things while slaughtering tens of thousands of civilians, including thousands of children. Israel has also made it clear that even if starving the entire population of Gaza isn’t their goal, it also isn’t something that bothers them terribly. Indeed, according to polls, a solid majority of Israelis oppose allowing food and medical aid into Gaza, widespread famine be damned.

And for far too long not only did our president fail to take concrete action in opposition to this slaughter. He failed to even speak out against it. Suddenly, Joe Biden’s famous empathy started to seem awfully selective.

In fairness, President Biden did eventually get around to criticizing Israel’s actions. He strongly urged the Israelis to take steps to protect civilians. There even appears to be some evidence that pressure from Biden helped to reduce Israel’s cruelty to the population of Gaza in some small ways. Yet when Benjamin Netanyahu’s response was in most respects to tell President Biden to buzz off, Biden continued to send Israel guns and bombs which they could use in committing the same wrongful actions, thereby making all Americans complicit in these actions. And every day children continue to die as a result of Israeli attacks.

Are long-term Biden supporters likely to withhold their votes from him to protest Gaza? Of course not. Keeping Donald Trump out of the White House in the 2024 election is the one overriding priority of this election. As so many others have pointed out, the survival of our democracy depends on this. And even if that weren’t true, is there any doubt Joe Biden will be a far better president than Donald Trump? For that matter, does anyone seriously believe the people of Gaza would do better in a Trump presidency?

But while most Democrats will still support Joe Biden in the upcoming election, for many of us a sense of betrayal will live on. And this includes what could easily become an unintended betrayal of American democracy itself.

The terrifying thing is this is almost certainly destined to be another close election, with every vote, at least in battleground states, potentially decisive. While the overwhelming majority of progressives who are angered over Gaza will ultimately vote for Biden, inevitably some won’t. And those few votes (or non-votes) could easily put Donald Trump back in the White House, with all that would mean.

And if that occurs, it will mean that Joe Biden chose to bet the future of American democracy on catering to the whims of Benjamin Netanyahu, a brutal, right-wing, authoritarian thug, and then lost that bet.

If that does happen, he will be remembered for nothing else.

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